Discussions from the Floor (Question from Attendees)
Do we have indicators for that, that it is relevant? And if not, can and should we develop these indicators?
- Professor Heinz Herwig (Hamburg University of Technology)
All of the discussions are focused on very well-organized society, we have billions of people outside this.
How should we consider in the big picture this kind of a situation in which you don’t necessarily have policymakers or money?
- Professor Jurandir Itizo Yanagihara (University Sao Paulo Brazil):
We can understand the importance qualitatively of technologies; however, we don’t know these quantitatively impact on the future. How can we do that?
Professor Yukitaka Kato (Tokyo Institute of Technology)
We need to teach the students what they need to know, not what we may have in our notebooks from 30 years ago.
It makes a big difference if we teach courses in entrepreneurship and technological innovation.. We must make it a must that creativity is very important particularly for advanced countries where they cannot promote commodity technologies.
- Professor Michael Ohadi (University of Maryland)
One of the best products that we put out is basically our students, and they have a very in-depth education. What we need to do is to create teams"
- Professor Jorge Alvarado (Texas A&M University)
"Do we have indicators for that, that it is relevant?
Can and should we develop these indicators?"
Dr. Heinz Herwig (Hamburg University of Technology):
Heinz Herwig from Hamburg University of Technology. It was said that our research and our research projects should be relevant for the society. The question is – Do we have indicators for that, that it is relevant? And if not, can and should we develop these indicators? That’s my question.
"It’s different a timescale"
I’m going to have to respond to this. Of course if it is industrially-funded research that leads to a product, it is easier I think to show us some relevance. Now, it would be probably more narrow if you talk about broad societal relevance, it’s a bit more difficult. If you talk about fundamental research, it’s a lot more difficult to show the relevance right away, you are going to have to wait and see it, it’s different a timescale, and a great majority of these fundamental studies do not lead to any relevant result for the society in my opinion.
"How do we justify or how do we measure relevance?"
If I may take a crack at that, it’s among the most difficult things to find out – how do we justify or how do we measure relevance? Unless there is an actual factory setup or a new entrepreneurial work going on, it’s very very hard to show. But certainly the fact that the work has generated additional work and most of these are trying to answer certain questions and some major effects have come through, that could be a very vague kind of relevance that we can talk about. So, a lot of work that we do fundamentally falls in that category. If it’s not completely applied inordinately at an industry, that’s the category it will go, that it will generate more effort basically trying to solve a major global problem.
"It depends on the timescale"
I think this is a very good question, and it depends on the timescale – I mean, the timescale for fundamental research, if you see if it’s fundamental or not, it’s very very long. There is one thing in my feeling which is not as long and even has to do with fundamental research, that’s the young students that we deliver to the society. This is on a more shorter scale and for me, for example, it’s always very relevant if I would use, let’s say, very good brilliant students – masters students, PhD students – that then leave into the real world. And this is on a shorter scale, this you can see after four-five years immediately, and the rest you can see a fundamental research maybe in 15 or 20 years or maybe never.
"All of the discussions are focused on very well-organized society, we have billions of people outside this.
How should we consider in the big picture this kind of a situation in which you don’t necessarily have policymakers or money?"
Professor Jurandir Itizo Yanagihara (University Sao Paulo Brazil):
I’m Jurandir Yanagihara from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was wondering about the term 'societal needs' because when I was listening to you, very interesting presentations, all of the discussions are focused on very well-organized society, which uses high energy, a lot of energy and pay for all the researches. But when we think about human beings in general, we have billions of people outside this, let’s say, society that we are talking about. Their needs are quite different, and perhaps to fulfill their needs the kind of research or kind of products that we need to develop is different too. So, I want to just let this question in the air about how we should also consider in the big picture this kind of a situation in which you don’t necessarily have policymakers or money coming from, but there is a natural need to be fulfilled too.
Thank you. Well, this is a very important question. So, what you are doing in the developed countries can be of good help for developing or undeveloped countries or not? That’s a good question, so we should be very serious about this. Any reactions for this? Yildiz, please?
"We should try to put them in simple terms and explain them what we are doing to the public."
I think it’s a very very good question as you mentioned and also a difficult one to answer. But I think if we educate the society and as I mentioned maybe create some kind of a thermal sciences capital, means we try to educate the public how they can use the energy, how they can use the heat transfer – in just simple in cooking, for example, for housewives, not to burn the meat and cook it such that it will be healthy when you eat, or when you close the drapes, when you open it, simple things that could be saving lots of energy – and we will be helping them with their budgets and with their comforts in their homes, just as an example. So what we need to do, whatever we are doing, we should try to put them in simple terms and explain them what we are doing to the public. Or whenever we are working on a big project, we should think of some simple projects that will be helpful for the common public or just this person on the street in my opinion. It’s very difficult to perform, and it’s a very good question.
"There is still additional dimension to that"
It’s a very interesting point, but let me take it still further. There are cases where there is no need and people don’t perceive that there is a need, but still the fundamental work going on has resulted in tremendous effect. And I’m clearly talking about the computer that we have right now. We have iPhone – I mean, we didn’t think that it’s needed, that there was no need for it basically. And you can think of a whole range of products, which have come through where the society was not the one which was forcing it, and that’s where the bottoms-up will come in, where you are generating ideas and you thus bring up… The need will come eventually, but the point is you are bringing up the information, which most of the people did not even know that existed. So, there is still additional dimension to that and that’s where the fundamental research going from bottoms-up will play a very major part. We can’t live without an iPhone now, and there was a time that we didn’t even think that is needed.
"We can understand the importance qualitatively of technologies; however, we don’t know these quantitatively impact on the future. How can we do that?"
Professor Yukitaka Kato (Tokyo Institute of Technology):
Kato from Tokyo Institute of Technology. Thank you very much for a nice discussion. I’m thinking as one engineer, we have lots of information for energy technologies, We can understand the importance qualitatively of technologies; however, we don’t know these quantitatively impact on the future. A scientist would understand the impact of the research on the future society, then, is required to know the future potential of technologies quantitatively. People who make the top-down decision would have not enough information of science aspects sometimes. Scientists would tend to have small chance to discuss deeply about future with the top-down decision maker. Professor Joon Sik Lee showed the data of – the Stanford one. It looks beautiful; we want to know deeply about each detail because every scientist has potential to show good opinions about such one. So, finally I want to propose, we have to get much more linked with the scientists to show the quantitative figure. When we try to show the quantitative figure for energy system or technology system, we can understand how our researches have impacts on each society. It should be important for development of scientific research.
Thank you very much. You have raised several important points. One of them is the scientific advice to our policymakers, and that is a topic we cannot visit this time deeply. But any particular reaction to his comment?
"A scientist is a people what they want to do, but an engineer should be doing something that the society wants to do so."
Well, actually I would like to ask you a quick question. Are you a scientist or an engineer? Actually I think a scientist is to people what they want to do, but an engineer should be doing something that the society wants to do so. So, actually in our – for example in Korea, actually most of performance evaluation system is based on publications, impact factors, citation numbers, and so on. Actually, the faculty members of engineering school move to actually science area because of high-impact factors. We don’t have any faculty members who can teach classical heat exchangers, power generators, and so on because all those professors are retired and then replaced by nano and bio major professors. And then the gap between industry and engineering school is getting wider and wider, so we actually disconnected. So, engineering schools should contribute to the industry.
Well, that is what Dr. Sato emphasized and of course scientists and engineers should work together more closely, of course playing their own responsibility respectively. Perhaps we have invited the gentleman over there?
"We need to teach the students what they need to know, not what we may have in our notebooks from 30 years ago.
It makes a big difference if we teach courses in entrepreneurship and technological innovation.
We must make it a must that creativity is very important particularly for advanced countries where they cannot promote commodity technologies."
Professor Michael Ohadi (University of Maryland):
Michael Ohadi, University of Maryland, professor of mechanical engineering and co-founder of the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering. I think as Dr. Klausner mentioned one focal issue is the lack of innovation in thermal sciences. And Professor Bayazitoglu mentioned we live in an era of fast technological innovation pace. We need to teach the students what they need to know, not what we may have in our notebooks from 30 years ago. We are dealing with technology savvy and fast pace students. We need to serve as coaches in their learning and go well beyond the text book which they can learn on their own. We need to promote innovation in thermal sciences and charge the students to serve as job creator vs. sole job seekers. I think it makes a big difference if weteach elective courses in entrepreneurship and technological innovation. I also think it makes a big difference if we encourage courses in leadership, right early on. Advanced countries do have the resources to afford this. And there are already some schools which offer students the opportunity to develop business plans and receive sizable rewards to continue development of their idea. So, I think we must make it a must that creativity is very important, particularly for advanced countries where they cannot promote commodity technologies. This does not have to come at the price of compromise on in-depth coverage of essential engineering courses. For example, we can create an atmosphere for innovation through design projects, creative class room discussions, and peer review evaluation of each other work. I believe students will respond positively to such invitation. And, I would like to see a few more professors who can write the check to the student the way a professor in one university did to to Serguie Brim, who co-founded the Google company. Yes, professors can lead the way and participate in having lasting impacts through promotion of innovation for job creation.., I think that can make a difference to our thermal sciences fields and the community at large. Thank you.
"We then have to decide what we don’t teach"
I agree basically with everything that you said, except that if we teach entrepreneurship and so on which we really need in economics, also in engineering and in science, we then have to decide what we don’t teach, and this is always then the big question. So, we have to either be faster, which is probably not a good idea, or to leave something, some of the subjects and then to have time for entrepreneurship and so on. That’s very difficult. In Germany – I don’t know if this exists in other countries, I have no idea – we have a so-called bachelor in master program for a combination of engineering and they can chose either as mechanical or civil engineering or informatics engineering together with economics. They are trained in both, so there are not no perfect engineers and no perfect economists, but they are somewhere in between, and they have good success in industry.
"One of the best products that we put out is basically our students, and they have a very in-depth education.
What we need to do is to create teams"
Professor Jorge Alvarado:
Yes. Jorge Alvarado from Texas A&M University. So far I have enjoyed the conversation and the whole thing very much. Just to follow up with the last person that made that comment about business plans, business models. I think he makes a great point. My own experience has been that we put a lot of energy and resources into basic research. And as we know, we have this valley of death thing where less than 1% of the ideas eventually make their way to the marketplace. If you look at the number of patents that make their way to the marketplace, it’s usually less than 3%. I guess one of the best products that we put out is basically our students, and they have a very in-depth education. But I don’t think that’s enough. I don’t think that’s enough because we have major challenges as you know. We have energy challenges. We have all kinds of challenges. So, maybe one approach (and this is just one idea), is that with every research project we should partner with a business school and bring in students with from business education or training and make them part of the team. I guess, as you mentioned, I don’t think it would be a good idea to make an engineer a businessman or to make a businessman an engineer. So, maybe what we need to do is to create teams where you bring students from the business school and you bring your engineers, and then they work together, and maybe at the end they can develop business plans for specific technologies. That’s my point.
"The Capstone Design Course"
Your point is good, certainly an excellent one, that you can bring people from business or maybe law or maybe entrepreneurship and so on together. What we have found, and this is just an experience from our university and I think it’s true with many other at least American universities to focus a lot on the Capstone Design Course. In the Capstone Design Course, because you have these projects and you have people working over a year, you bring in essentially everything that was mentioned a minute back and whatever you are mentioning, you bring them in. And people can pick and choose what exactly they want to study. So as a Capstone, you will talk about entrepreneurship, you will talk about ethics, you will talk about patents, you will talk about many many other things, and it’s almost like the first window into the industry. And it turns out that in many of these cases they already have the physical back ground, they already have the mathematical back ground, and so on and they also take an economics course because all engineers normally would take economics courses, so they can put it all together and as a subset of the whole thing they are able to teach. We have found the Capstone Design Course ends up being a very nice for training students before they go into industry.
Yes, we have been doing that for 50 years or more. But I’m saying at the graduate level, that’s where we fall short in my opinion.
"Bachelor level is the only place where students can learn some fundamentals"
My view on this is of course the topics mentioned are very important, but then we have the boundary conditions and we have a three/four-year bachelor degree depending on where you are. And it is really the only place where students can learn some fundamentals. Certainly one can pick up a business course later on in their life, but I don’t think they are going to pick up a basic course in some of those engineering sciences anywhere else other than the bachelors degree, it’s a lot more difficult anyway. So, I would think a lot before I would reduce this boring, but long-lasting knowledge for sort of useful things in the short run. Somehow one can find a way within a curriculum to do some of that. There is no doubt about it. I don’t have the recipe. It’s clearly important. What we have done in my institution is there is a – one can substitute five courses for what’s called the Focus Project. It’s project-based learning where effectively you have a project and you organize the knowledge including some entrepreneur’s aspects around it for a group of students. These students do that instead of doing five courses, and that is of course evaluated and so on and so forth. And it is an option, it’s not for everybody, the normal option exists as well. And I must say now that at this point we have about 10% of the students, 15% that do opt for that option.